Ohio's Own Silly District Court
By Tim Inwood
On September 1st , two of the judges of the 6th District Court of Appeals rendered a poor decision in the city of Toledo's case against Bruce Beatty. Judges Arlene Singer and Peter Handwork, with Judge Dennis Parrish dissenting, in short have said the Concealed Carry law passed in 2004 by the state legislature is not general law because the statute allows private property owners to restrict firearms on their property. The effect of their decision is to say that every municipality in the state can manipulate this law to mean what they want, even rendering it null by prohibiting firearms from being carried in places the law clearly indicates you can. It is amazing the legal mine field they created in rendering this decision.
To illustrate the ruling's absurdity, let me suggest this scenario:
Imagine some city in Ohio, let us say Kent, decides to ban Sport Utility Vehicles in the city for "environmental reasons". Now picture some poor motorist from Zanesville is driving through and he is arrested and prosecuted for violating this ordinance, one which he has never even heard of... This is the same sort of "twilight zone" legal nightmare the 6th District has created for the law abiding citizen who has a concealed carry license in Ohio. This court has represented itself as being as loopy the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco, California, which is infamous for wanting to strike "God" from the Pledge of Allegiance...among other things.
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In addition to the flawed arguments made by Handwork and Singer, there are areas the court has not touched that should have been commented on. For instance their ruling made no effort to overcome the Arnold or Klein decisions that bearing arms is a fundamental right subject to restriction. These Ohio Supreme Court rulings were ignored.
The sole voice of sanity on this court, Judge Dennis Parrish, recognized the folly of his colleagues and said "...In declaring that R.C.2923.126 is not a general law, the majority opens Pandora's Box. If R.C. 2923.126 is not a general law then dozens if not hundreds of other state statutes are also not general laws, and local governments can change them at will. Thus, the majority's action will serve only to promote uncertainty in the law."
The other voice of reason to commend came from Attorney General Jim Petro's Spokesman Mark Anthony, who said "We respectfully disagree with the 6th District's decision, and believe the state's concealed-carry law is a general law." "The majority's opinion could lend itself to inconsistent regulations throughout the state and confusion among concealed-carry licensees."
On the bright side, the court did rule out all of the other home rule arguments made by Toledo's acting Law Director John Madigan, and the decision of course cries for further action. Furthermore, this ruling and case has thrown the door wide open to the state legislature who must certainly be distressed by the judges of this state ignoring clear intent and legislating from the Bench. By essentially saying "sorry, you need to be draconian on private property rights to make the CCW law work", they are inviting the General Assembly to eliminate all restrictions on where a gun may be carried (eliminating these "victim zones" would be a great thing!).
So where do we go from here, you ask? Clearly Mr. Beatty has grounds to appeal this. However this will take time. The best option is for the legislature to pass HB347 now. This important legislation will not only preempt all local gun control laws, but it will also do away with the silly open carry in vehicles rule. All I can say to my friends in the State Legislature reading this is this: we are the only state requiring this nonsense and it should be done away with. It causes people to do gun handling in a car which is awkward and dangerous. We were not breaking new ground when we adopted CCW. Some 40+ other states had already done so over many years and they do not have this ridiculous, dangerous requirement.
It is also clear that if the courts are going to have problems with the exceptions of where CHL-holders can carry that we eliminate the "victim zones". Most other states allow people to carry in restaurants with bars with no ill effect, and most southern states that banned carrying in churches reversed that when churches began to get robbed about the time the collection plate had gone around (I am not aware of the problem in Ohio). Clearly prohibiting self-defense in the bathrooms at rest areas is folly as criminal attacks have occurred since our law was enacted that could have been thwarted by the victim being armed.
Though this was a terrible, if not down-right incompetent, decision by Handwork and Singer, they may have actually done us a favor by making clear to House and Senate leaders that they must write a law the Judges and cities can not abuse. Let us hope the General Assembly acts on these issues soon. Your action will help. Urge your Senator and Representative to get involved in fixing our concealed carry law today. While you are at it please send a contribution to the Buckeye Firearms Association. We are your voice in Columbus, and we need your help.
Tim Inwood is the current Legislative Liaison and Past President of the Clinton County Farmers and Sportsmen Association, and a volunteer for Buckeye Firearms Association.